Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA) ~ Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland

I read about the Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland in the Winter 2010 issue of Scottish Life.  According to the announcement the site has a database of over 1000 Gaelic place names with the English equivalent, the meaning, and the pronunciation in Gaelic.

I was especially interested in the latter feature - how to pronounce the place-names. When I first got to Scotland, I couldn't pronounce anything; primarily because British and American English put the emphasis on different syllables. For example, as an American I looked at Benbecula and thought Ben-be-CU-la, when it's actually Ben-BEC-u-la.

Then I took Sheila Kidd's Gaelic Ia class. While none of the documents I needed were in Gaelic, the emigrants I was studying were Gaelic-speaking, so I figured I should learn their language. Well, this effort didn't go so well, mostly because I didn't like to practice. (I had a similar problem with French and the piano.)  But I learned just enough to make my attempts to pronounce things worse because when I looked at Gaelic place-names I was no longer sure if the English spelling preserved the Gaelic spelling or the Gaelic pronunciation. Inverness, for example, seems to keep the Gaelic spelling, Inbhir Nis, not the pronunciation.

This evening I finally tried out this website and was greatly disappointed.  It appears that the database is empty! I searched for Inverness, Fort William, An Gearasdan, and their suggested search, Abriachan. I even tried to browse the database by letter, but to no avail. Hopefully, its just a glitch that will be fixed as the site would be a great source for Gaelic learners and those trying to better understand place names for research.

Here is a leaflet about the AÀA.

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